Blast from the Past: Marcia Djudzman, ’90, remembers writing stories on floppy disks

In celebration of Country Day’s 50th anniversary, a past editor-in-chief of The Octagon will be featured in each issue.

Marcia Djudzman, ‘90, was editor-in-chief twice—from 1987-88 and from 1989-90.

Q: During your first time as editor-in-chief, The Octagon got computers. How was that?

A: We were all given our own floppy disks. You’d write your story on a floppy using Microsoft Word, and then copy it onto the hard drive. That got old really fast, so at some point I just started writing all my stories on the hard drive. But, yes, all of a sudden, magic. I could write the thing and print it out in 9-point Times New Roman!

Q: Did computers revolutionize the paper?

A:Absolutely.We didn’t need Aardvark Printing any more for typesetting. If I wrote a thing, and printed it out and cut it into strips and held it up against the layout sheets and it was too long, I could trim it down and print a new version in 10 minutes. Glorious!

The opposite happens and a  story’s too short? Find a pull quote and throw it in there.

And, of course, no more Aardvark meant no more ¨It has to be at Aardvark by Thursday!¨ which meant we all could slip deadlines as much as we needed to and all that would happen was a Fels lecture. I procrastinated as much as everyone else.

Q: Did your proofreading prowess ever help you?

A: It was quite something when I visited my then 8-year-old daughter’s classroom and saw a poster of proofreading marks and told all the kids, ¨I actually made money using those.¨

Q: You had a “new” adviser at the time (Fels), who had just returned from a year in England. What was that like?

A: I’d been mildly intimidated by Fels when she recruited me in eighth grade. She carried this vicious-looking pen thingy, which she used to punctuate sentences.

Q: What was the most memorable part of working on the Octagon?

A: Well, I was editor twice. First as a sophomore due to there being no seniors (on the staff)  in the class of 1988 and then again as a senior in the class of 1990. We put out a first issue and got backlash from the (new) administration at the time about it being ¨too negative.¨ My unofficial response was ¨Well, this is what life at Country Day is like.¨ (I imagine now that Octagon adviser Patricia Fels must’ve used the words “Our editor is only a sophomore¨ a lot.)

Q: What was it like to be a sophomore editor-in-chief? Most editors are seniors.

A: At the time I just didn’t have the maturity to understand tone, or, rather, I didn’t have the perspective to understand ¨the tone this administration would like its student newspaper to have.¨Now that I’m all grown up I can understand the trepidation of handing a publication over to a 15-year-old, but back then I wasn’t scared at all. I took the position of ¨editor¨ literally. My job was to make other people’s writing better—what could possibly be so hard about that?

Q: One of your schoolmates, Scott Pfaendler, ‘87, was going through chemotherapy during your sophomore year, and you wrote about it in a feature for the Octagon. What was it like to go with him to chemo?

A: When I went with him for chemo, what I remember to this day is 1) freaking out when an old man who’d had a thoracotomy spoke with his loud robotic box and 2) listening to the nurse ask Scott if he was going to a Kings’ game, and Scott replied, ¨Only if they put a bed next to a bathroom for me.¨

I didn’t see him at his worst, so even though I knew he could die, I had that sort of teenager denial. Scott passed in 1995. I think Fels phoned me to tell me the news.

I didn’t have much life experience with cancer at that point, so my reaction was more ¨Oh, that’s terrible; he died¨ rather than what it would be today, which is ¨Oh god, I hope he didn’t suffer.¨

Q: What have you done since leaving SCDS?

A: The biggest jobs were the two San Francisco dot-coms, where I edited management consulting docs. A few years after that I was a reference librarian for the Contra Costa County Library. All of the jobs used skills I had, but the dot-coms crashed and burned, and I left the library job due to clinical depression.

That was in 2005, and I’ve been a stay-at-home (translation: “run-all-over-town”) mom ever since. My daughters just started their junior and senior years of high school.

Q: What was it like being “the boss”?

A: One day I go into the Cave to do yet more Octagon stuff, and no one is there. I’m furious. I go storming out to the quad and scream to the heavens, ¨What the hell do I have to do to get people to work?¨ Punchline: later Liz Gronke, ’92, and Anoosh Jorjorian, ’91, gave me a bullwhip for my 18th birthday.

Part of this interview was previously published in the print edition on Sept. 16, 2014. 

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